Understanding Back and Hip Pain

by Danielle Cherrick, M.D.

Understanding Back and Hip Pain

As a pain management physician, I help people who don’t know where their pain is coming from. I diagnose the source of the pain, why it is happening, and provide treatment to help the patients feel better.  

Hip and Back Pain 

It can be difficult to figure out if you have hip pain or back pain. Our common words for body parts make it even harder, because pain that most people think of as hip pain is actually coming from your back. 

Your hip is the connection between your leg and your pelvis. If you think of where the leg of a skeleton attaches, that’s your hip. It’s lower down and more in the front of your body. What we commonly think of as our hip is really the top part of our pelvic bone, and pain there is probably coming from your back. 

To make things more confusing, a problem in one part of your body can show up as pain in another part of your body. A pinched nerve in your back might send pain down your legs, for example. As a pain management physician, I investigate and diagnose what is causing the pain. Treatments include injections, medications, and referrals to physical therapy. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How does someone know that they should come see you?  

If you have an ache or pain that’s bothering you for at least a week and you’re not able to manage it with the steps you can take at home, please come see me. If you’ve tried over-the-counter painkillers, using ice, and other home remedies and your pain persists, it’s worth being seen so we can get to the source of your pain and treat it. 

Are there exercises that I can do to help treat back pain?  

Yes, there are several exercises that you can do to treat back pain. Physical therapy can give you a plan and a home exercise program. I have done physical therapy myself and have been surprised by how many things I've done wrong thinking that I'm doing it right. Having the guidance of a physical therapist to get you started can be very helpful. 

Can injections be done the same day as my appointment? 

It depends. While I have an injection suite with the required equipment in my office, some insurance companies do not allow same-day injections. In that case, patients wait until the approval comes in from the insurance company before scheduling an injection.  

What kind of anesthesia is used for an injection? 

Local anesthetic is common. If needed, some patients may receive medications to help them relax before the injection. You’re awake and speaking to the doctor the whole time.  

How many steroid injections can I get?  

It depends. We have to be really judicious and calculated when giving injections and monitor how much steroid you are getting over time. If you have different joints that get injected often, I’ll work with the other OrthoVirginia physicians you’re seeing before we decide if steroid injections for your back are the right move. The total amount of steroid injections and how frequently you receive them depends on the person. 

Do TENS units help?  

TENS units are units that send a pins-and-needles feeling over the part of your body that they are attached to. The feeling is supposed to overwhelm and distract your brain so you feel less pain. TENS units work for some people but not everyone, so I recommend trying one at physical therapy before buying one.  

I had a cortisone injection in a joint recently and my joint hurts more than it did before the injection. Is this normal?  

Yes, this is normal. Immediately after the injection, the joint may feel great because numbing medicine has been injected. After the numbing medicine wears off, the joint can feel where a needle was put in. Additionally, the injection adds fluid to a place in your body that hasn’t had fluid recently, and your body needs to adjust. The injection may take a few days to start working. If your pain is extreme or if it’s not better in a day or two, please contact the person who did the injection. 

Would yoga help back and hip pain?  

It may. When people have back and hip pain, I don’t recommend starting new types of exercise without checking with me. If you haven’t done yoga before, I don’t recommend starting on your own to try to relieve new pain. If you’re experienced doing yoga, then you may try it. 

Would you use heat or ice for back pain?  

Use whichever feels the most helpful. For me personally, I respond better to heat when I have a muscle spasm but use ice when I feel something is painful in a sharp and shooting way.  

Learn more about pain management